Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Bresaola and Pears with Balsamic Reduction
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
What is bresaola!
Bresaola is cured beef, a treat from the Valtellina, a major Alpine valley that extends east for close to a hundred miles from the top of Lake Como. The Valtellinesi have been making it for long enough that they etymology of the word is uncertain; some say it derives from sala come brisa, a reference to the use of salt in preserving meats, and others say it derives from brasa, the brasiers that were once used to heat the chambers where the meat was cured.
In any case, bresaola is now made by slat curing beef with spices, and then air drying it for several months.
Unlike most cold cuts, which are usually served with bread, bresaola is finely sliced, and seasoned with a mixture of olive oil, salt, and pepper, to which many people add some lemon juice. Some also add flakes of Parmigiano.
In addition to beef bresaola, one can also find bresaola made from horse meat, and I have seen bresaola of donkey as well. As a general rule, a piece of bresaola made from beef will be slightly larger and a bit lighter in color than one made from horse, while bresaola of donkey is almost black. Horse and donkey bresaola were very popular after the Second World War but not as common today. Bresaola can be purchased from your favorite gourmet store.
2 cups red wine, Cabernet or Merlot
2 cups balsamic vinegar not aged
½ cup granulated sugar
2 pears (Anjou varietal)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 slices of cured beef bresaola
Prepare the balsamic reduction: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the wine, balsamic vinegar and the sugar.
Cook, stirring, until the sauce reduces by half and it becomes thick and syrupy. Meanwhile cut the pears in half. In a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pears, and sear for 1 minute. Add the sugar, and cook until caramelized.
To serve, arrange the pear halves on the plate. Drape the bresaola next to the pears and drizzle the balsamic reduction. Artichoke and almond chutneys are optional additions.
Note on Anjou pears
Commonly referred to by their French name, “d' Anjou,” Anjou pears are the second-most recognizable pear variety in the United States. It’s the most abundant variety, which means you'll find Green Anjou pears on produce stands in the U.S. nearly year round.
Identifying Green Anjou Pears
Green Anjou pears are recognizable for their egg-shaped appearance, having a larger spherical lower portion that begins a gradual taper above the mid-point to a narrower rounded top. Their skin color is bright green, and sometimes has a soft red blush. Skin color shows only very subtle color change while ripening.
Related Slideshow: Our Favorite RI Cheese Shops
More than 10 years ago, Chef Matt Jennings and his wife Kate decided to make Providence their home and open the best cheese shop our fair city had seen in some time. All of a sudden cheeses that you had heard of before but couldn't find in Providence were here. We delighted in the Ewephoria. We bathed in the bread and butter pickles they made. The restaurant opened after that and they were off to the stars. We wish them well in Boston and can't wait for their next chapter at Townsman. 186 Wayland Ave. 274-7177, http://www.farmsteadinc.com
Le Petit Gourmet
Milk and Honey Bazaar
As we head over to the East Bay, we find Milk and Honey Bazaar. We love driving out this way in the spring with the sun shining and the windows down. The ride got much better the week we found Milk and Honey. Located in the historic four corners, Milk and Honey features delicious cheeses and pâtés, charcuterie, olives, olive oils, vinegars, jellies, mustards, honey, flatbreads and crackers, and fresh baguettes. Pretty much everything you need for a gourmet experience. 3838 Main Rd. 624-1974, http://www.milkandhoneybazaar.com
Constantino's Venda Ravio
We couldn't leave out Federal Hill, and where else would you start but Venda? Whether you are looking for freshly made pasta of all shapes and sizes, Italian cheeses imported from the old-country or a vast selection of prepared foods, Venda has it all. We love getting some crusty bread and some parm and some first-pressed olive oil and kicking back with a nice glass of wine. It's our perfect Friday night way to unwind. Or our Sunday afternoon way to gear up for the week. 265 Atwells Ave. 421-9105, http://www.vendaravioli.com
Please don't let the name fool you...this had nothing to do with Chef Boyardee. This is a classic, old-school gourmet shop. From the moment you walk in, you are transported to the continent of Europe. England, France, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia...they are all covered here. And really, you could spend weeks just trying the delectable French cheeses on hand. That would mean you would miss the homemade pastas and the incredible dry sausages in the Italian area. The German section features the coolest array of pickled items you are likely to find. We loved the pickled Kale on a recent visit. 2832 South County Trail, 884-8798, http://www.chefaroni.com/